April 19, 2022 – In 2010, there were about 21,000 overdoses involving opioids in the U.S. By 2020, that number had ballooned to 68,630. And during the isolating, stressful, and financially devastating COVID-19 pandemic, almost every U.S. state reported “a spike or increase in overdose deaths or other problems” related to opioids, according to the American Medical Association.

The opioid crisis has been with us for decades because pharmaceutical companies aggressively and untruthfully marketed these pain relievers to the medical community as a relatively safe option with a low risk of addiction and abuse. Members of the Sackler family — which owned Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactured OxyContin and grossed an estimated $10 billion in profit from OxyContin sales — have been granted sweeping immunity from future lawsuits. 

We continue to learn the ugly details of the roots of this crisis, but the ongoing human toll is immeasurable. Inside this American epidemic are hundreds of thousands of individual stories of families torn apart, lives thrown off track, of childhoods lost, and battles waged.  Bradley spent the last 10 years of his life in and out of rehab, alternating between periods of active addiction and hopeful recovery. On December 26, 2018, Karla was feeling comfortable: Bradley had been clean for about nine months, was in a long-term relationship, and seemed happier than she had ever seen him. As Karla, her husband, and children drove to Karla’s parents’ house, she says, Bradley called her and asked where she was. Karla told him she was two hours away. 

Two hours later, as Karla and her family approached the exit to her hometown, Karla’s dad called and told her there had been an accident. Bradley had just gotten a motorcycle, so Karla immediately thought that had something to do with it; but it wasn’t that. Bradley had overdosed. 


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